US tanks ‘absolutely on the table’ for Ukraine: Pentagon
Washington and its EU allies are pressured by Kiev for more heavy weaponry.
The United States may give "NATO compatible" tanks to the Ukrainian military to replace outdated Soviet-era equipment as Kiev continues to press for a constant stream of Western weapons despite severe fighting with Russian troops, according to a senior Pentagon official.
The defense employee was questioned by reporters at an unnamed briefing on Monday about whether the White House would take into account heavy armor in future aid packages to Ukraine, adding that Ukrainian MPs had just traveled to the US capital to specifically demand tanks.
“Tanks are absolutely on the table along with other areas,” the official said, noting that while Ukrainian troops are more familiar with “Soviet type tanks,” the Pentagon recognizes “that there will be a day when they may want to transition and may need to transition to NATO compatible models.”
When questioned about whether Western tanks would be part of the next arms shipments, the official said that would depend on how quickly Ukrainian forces could be trained to operate and maintain the vehicles, but added that the Joe Biden administration is "definitely receptive" to the notion.
Last week, the White House revealed a $600 million security package to Kiev, marking Biden's 21st Presidential weapons drawdown for Ukraine. The package includes additional rounds for US-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 36,000 artillery shells, 1,000 precision-guided munitions, anda number of tansport vehicles and small arms.
Washington has increased its armament supplies throughout the crisis, eventually deciding to give long-range artillery platforms and multi-launch rocket systems like the HIMARS months into the conflict. The Pentagon has chosen instead to enable the transfer of equipment from third nations like Poland and the Czech Republic rather than providing some of the most advanced weaponry now used by the US military, such as heavy armor or fighter jets.
Ukrainian leaders continue to demand heavier weapons, despite the fact that Biden has approved more than $15 billion in direct military aid to Ukraine since Russia sent soldiers there in late February. Kiev has recently asked Germany for Leopard battle tanks, Marder infantry combat vehicles, and Gepard anti-aircraft tanks in addition to American armor, but Berlin has been hesitant to comply.
“No country has delivered Western-built infantry fighting vehicles or main battle tanks so far,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said in an event last week, adding “We have agreed with our partners that Germany will not take such action unilaterally.”
The US defense official did not specify what kind of tanks the Pentagon considers for Ukraine, referring only to “NATO compatible models.” Several M1 Abrams configurations are currently export-ready and serve as Washington's primary battle tank, according to the official.